Friday, August 31, 2007

It's raining, it's pouring

Actually it is lashing it down. This wasn't forecast on the weather channel Meteo.

Following last weeks dirty rain, this week we have clean rain. At least I hope it is clean rain because I really don't want to have to hose everywhere down again at the weekend.

I think we might just wait before we go out today.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Safer than the bulls at Pamplona

This year's "La Tomatina", the tomato festival at Buñol, took place on Wednesday.

The little town of Buñol, which is 15 minutes from Valencia, gets inundated with up to 30,000 visitors who spend the two hours that are allowed throwing 125,000 kilos of tomatoes at each other.

They probably need to spend the next two hours hosing themselves and the streets down.

Apparently nobody has been injured in the 62 years that the festival has been held.

PS I obviously did not take these photos!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


From time to time there are hot topics amongst the residents at Villas Andrea. It might be, for example, the telephones or the state of Calle Escocia but these are just passing concerns. The one topic that endures though is visitors.

Most residents will tell you that when they were in the UK, people would come and see them for the day. Occasionally they would stay overnight or even for a weekend. Now that we live in Spain though, visitors want to stay for a week or more. Not only that but people whom you seldom saw in the UK suddenly become close friends who desperately want to come and see you. So you end up with more visitors staying for longer periods.

Having people for the day is one thing but when they stay longer it is more difficult. Most of us live in small houses on a pension of some sort. Coping with extra people for a week or more is therefore both difficult and potentially expensive.

Folks back in the UK need to recognise that whilst they are on holiday when they come to Spain, we are here to stay. Our normal lives don't involve all the things that you might want to do during your stay. Even trips to the airport cost money and there are only so many routes you can take to either Alicante or Murcia. The novelty of the journeys there soon wears off especially at peak times when the roads are congested.

Most visitors will contribute to the cost of food and fuel, maybe buy a meal out or two. It has to be said though that they have still had a cheap holiday in the sun. The cost of a flights on a budget airline and a couple of meals out comes no where near the cost of a package holiday to Spain.

Of course some people love having visitors and welcome one lot after another so I am not speaking for them. The rest of us want to see our families and close friends out here. As for anyone else though, they need to ask themselves "are we coming out to see good friends or are we just after a cheap holiday?" If they just want a cheap holiday we know of lots of villas they can rent close by and we can put them in touch with good car rental deals. Then they can come and visit us for the day just like they did in the UK.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Picky Teachers 2

Back in February we had a Valentine's Dance with a very nice glossy ticket which unfortunately had a missing apostrophe.

This time we have an Open Air Music Festival at La Predera. They do of course mean La Pedrera (the Stone Quarry). It seems such a shame to go to the trouble of printing such attractive tickets only to get the name of the venue wrong. Even still, we are looking forward to what promises to be a good night.

Incidentally, we were up at La Pedrera for lunch yesterday. The food was excellent and very good value for money.

PS When I taught at Anfield many years ago I used to print tickets for various functions. I still remember the occasion when I printed 300 tickets for the school pantomime "Alladin". Fortunately a colleague spotted the mistake and I was able to reprint them before they were sold to the pupils. The correct spelling of course is Aladdin.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dirty stuff

It never cleared up at all yesterday. Dark clouds punctuated by heavy rain persisted all day. This morning is dry and a little brighter but still not August like. At least we will be able to get outside though.

It looks like we have a big clean up job on our hands because the rain, which came over from Africa, brought with it a thick layer of dust. All the outdoor furniture and the terracing not to mention the car are covered in it. So after breakfast it is a hose down job before we start treading the stuff into the house.

With any luck most of the dust that fell on the pool will have been trapped by the filter but I dare say that the bottom will need a thorough clean anyway.

We are planning to go out for lunch. By then we will probably deserve it.

Looking at the forecast for tomorrow it looks like Summer is going to return at least for southern Spain.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Is this really August?

The wind has dropped a little although it is still gusty. It is also mild with a shade temperature in the mid twenties. That is the good news. The bad news is that the clouds that have been rolling over off and on for the last week have thickened to the black and ominous type that signal heavy rain. These are definitely not the white puffy kind of clouds that burn off easily. It looks and feels more like Winter than Summer. It is 9:30 and still not light.

Ah well it will give us chance to catch upon our Spanish homework ready for next term.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weather not at its best but could be worse

The weather here this week has been changeable. One day it has been sunny and calm, the next day cloudy and windy. We've had heavy downpours of rain and a definite drop in air temperatures. However, it could get worse this Autumn.

Each year this area prepares for a possible gota fria or 'cold drop' . Gota frias are brought about when vapours from the warm Mediterranean come into contact with cold air currents from the north. The results are violent downpours and storms with speeds of up to 120 miles an hour. The coastal area around Cartagena is said to be most vulnerable to the effects of the gota fria.

Hopefully though weather conditions could still change and with luck we will escape a cold drop for yet another year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The rain in Spain

An average of 13.2 litres of water per square metre was registered by dawn on the Segura river basin yesterday with some areas receiving over 30 litres per square metre including nearby Jacarilla.

The rain, which continued from approximately 10pm until 8am, has provided much needed water for the citrus trees and other crops in the area.

In terms of records it was the highest amount of rain on a day in August for ten years. The previous highest recorded amount was 36 litres per square metre on the 25th August 1997.

So as we tell our friends in England, "when it rains it really rains".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Higher prices for prawns

The present campaign of fishing for langostino (prawns) in Guardamar del Segura is down on last year's.

The average price has been of about 60 euros by kilo. From April to the 20th of August the Brotherhood of Fishermen have only earned128,514 euros from their catches.

According to the Brotherhood, the absence of floods of water from the Segura river have prevented regeneration of stocks.

Ah well I'll have to stick to sardines then.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A real struggle

It has taken Telefonica nearly three months to connect all the people who wanted phones. Some were easy; just pull the cable through from the junction box in the road to the box outside the house and then through to the house, connect up the phone and test the line. Half an hour and the job was finished.

In some cases though the tube that carried the pull through was partially blocked which made installing the cable difficult. In one case the box outside the house had been covered with paving rather than a Telefonica box.

Inevitable some people just gave up and opted for an alternative but not Mel and Lilian. They had had a pool built which involved re-routing the tube the cable had to go through. In the process of completing the pool the tube had been squashed and pulling the cable through seemed impossible. Telefonica tried to get the cable through but nothing would budge. Undeterred Mel worked out where the blockage was and took up the paving stones that covered it. Once he had the tube clear, a good dose of liquid soap and plenty of heaving saw the cable safely in his house. A quick call to Telefonica brought an astonished engineer out ready to connect his phone and more important his ADSL router.

A great result for Mel and Lilian. Welcome to the world of communication!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

UPS, it did it again

We seem to get quite a few power cuts even though we are on mains electricity. Sometimes the power just cuts off for a second or so and sometimes, like this morning, it goes off for longer.

I don't suppose the power cuts do any of the devices that are permanently switched on any good but particularly at risk are computers. If the power happens to go off when the computer is switched on then you get what Windows describes as an illegal shutdown.

As a minimum, any documents you are working on get lost but it could be worse. Windows itself could be corrupted or even a hard drive could crash. You could end up with a dead computer.

The answer to the problem is an uninterruptible power supply or UPS. UPS have a lead acid battery that is designed to take over and run your computer and monitor when the AC supply cuts out. The switch from AC to battery is instantaneous so the computer and monitor stay running until the AC current comes back on or until the battery runs down.

The most sophisticated models connect to a program which switches the computer off safely before the battery dies. With mine though I have to switch the computer off manually. The UPS does warn me though when the battery is low so that I can shut down before it dies.

So how much do they cost? Well mine was 39€ and provides ample power for both the computer and monitor. For 69€ I could have got a model that would shut down the computer automatically. The battery in mine is good for four years or so at which time I can either replace it or buy a new UPS.

I nearly forgot; an UPS also filters noise and provides a constant voltage to the computer so even when there isn't a power cut the computer is protected from surges and spikes.

In my book an UPS gives good value protection for a minimal outlay.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Come listen to the bands


(admission to all events in theatre: 2 euros (donation to charity).
Saturday 25th of August at 22:30 hrs
Concert in Paseo Juan Aparicio
Orchestra: Sociedad Musical Cuidad
de Torrevieja ‘Los Salerosos’. (Spain)
Sunday 26th of August at 22:00 hrs
Concert in the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)
Orchestra: Central Band British Royal Air Force (United Kingdom)
Monday 27th of August at 22:00 hrs
Concert in the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)
Orchestra: Glasbeno Drustvo Bohinj (Slovenia)
Tuesday 28th of August at 22:30 hrs
Concert in Paseo Juan Aparicio
Orchestra: Glasbeno Drustvo Bohinj (Slovenia)
Wednesday 29th of August at 22:00 hrs
Concert in the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)
Orchestra: Royal Marines Association Concert Band (United Kingdom)
Thursday 30th of August at 22:00 hrs
Concert in the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)
Orchestra: Blaasorkest Amsterdam Tramharmonie (Holland)
Friday 31st of August at 22:00 hrs
Concert in the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)
Orchestra: Royal Marines Association Concert Band (United Kingdom) & Blaasorkest Amsterdam Tramharmonie (Holland)
Saturday 1st of September at 22:00 hrs
Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) CLOSING CEREMONY AND CONCERT.
Orchestras: Sociedad Musical Cuidad de Torrevieja ‘Los Salerosos’ (Spain), Royal Marines Association Concert Band (United Kingdom), Blaasorkest Amsterdam Tramharmonie (Holland).

The fartet

No I am not swearing, the unfortunately named 'fartet' is one of the most important indicators of the health of the ecosystem of the Mar Menor. 

OK so what is it? The fartet is a tiny fish only found in Spain and North Africa and is an officially listed species in danger of extinction.

This tiny fish, which is less than two inches long when fully grown needs the purest seawater to survive. They also love the banks of posidonia grass, which also only grows in the cleanest of water. As signs of clean water nothing beats the little fish and the underwater grass.

The fartet has little silvery/blue stripes along its body, a striped fan tail, big eyes and fins top and bottom. It loves eating marine insects and mosquito eggs and likes hot salty water, particularly around traditional salt pans.

If you visit the Mar Menor look out for them.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hasta 2008

Since the 1960s San Joaquin has been taken round the town on a wheeled cart. This year though he had a paso to travel on and was carried on the shoulders of costaleros. The 900 kgm paso took two teams of 40 men and women from the Cofradía de San Joaquín carrying 23kgms each. The cofrade, Aurelio Murcia explained that "Taking it to shoulders, the procession is more intimate and more religious".

However it nearly didn't happen. On Wednesday, when the Cofradia were practising , they dropped the figure as they were lifting it onto the throne. Speedy work by the restorers though meant that San Joaquin was like new again by last night.

The candlelight procession that accompanied his journey took two hours because of the number of people involved. It is estimated that over 3,000 people joined in the procession. Finally San Joaquin was delivered safely back to the town square. Following the most amazing firework display, the patron saint was then returned into the church until next year.

¡Viva San Joaquin!

Again you can find more pictures by clicking on the link at the left.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A very late night

Very few things start on time here in Bigastro. Last night we arrived for the main parade and waited and waited and waited. Finally though (about two hours late) we were rewarded with a fantastic show.

When the parade finished we went for much needed refreshments. At 1am we were further rewarded when, what seemed like the whole population of Bigastro paraded down the main street clapping in time to the band. When they arrived at the main square, the church bells rang and we were treated to a spectacular firework display. It is how Bigastrense welcome in the day of San Joaquin.

You can see more pictures by clicking on this link Fiesta.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hard being a dad

It's not just about assembling your brolly now it is making sure you don't get fined for leaving it.


No Fiesta would be complete without a concert by la Sociedad Unión Musical de Bigastro.

Since they play often in Bigastro they need a wide repertoire of music to draw from.

Last night they included Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture complete with a spectacular firework display which was timed to perfection.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Seconds anyone?

The cocineros and one of their paellas gigantes. They cooked three and that is all that was left. Such a pity to waste it but after our jornadas gastronómicas yesterday we hardly had room for one portion never mind seconds.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The down side

Those who are following this blog and the Fiesta in Bigastro need to know that it is not all good.

Each night, starting at midnight, there is either a disco or a show in the main park. I can't say what time it finishes but I do know I have woken up a few times in the early hours of the morning to the sound of music drifting up from the town.

For those who actually live in the town, especially in the flats around the park, it must be very difficult getting any beauty sleep. Still it gives us all an excellent excuse for having a siesta in the middle of the day!

Full up

The Jornadas Gastronómicas this afternoon was a great success.

The people from Villas Andrea who contributed or helped can be justifiably proud of themselves. By the time people started to file past, the Buffet Británico table was groaning with food of every description.

The parades

There is nothing that these people like better than dressing up.

even young children in push chairs join in

as part of the children's parade the infant queens were giving out presents to the children

...then we had the Caballeros del Cid

and the dancing girls

along with a few Arabs who dropped in

and finally the children from the music school accompanying the local town band.

You can find more pictures in Our Spanish Album (pages 3 and 4).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I think you should check

One lucky person is sitting on a lottery ticket worth £35.4m after winning the EuroMillions draw.

Camelot, which operates the British arm of the European lottery, said it would be the biggest single payout in the UK's lottery history.

But the holder of the ticket, which was bought somewhere in the UK, has not come forward since Friday night's draw.

Camelot said the winner, who has 180 days to collect their prize, may not even be aware of their good fortune.

The numbers drawn on Friday 10 August are: 23, 40, 42, 43, 49. Lucky Star numbers are: 2 and 6.

Turn of the horses

Last night we were treated to a show of horsemanship as part of the Fiesta programme. It must take many hours of training to direct a horse to walk sideways, backwards, to goosestep and to walk on just its back legs. These caballeros made it look easy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

All a bit high tech.

THE DGT traffic department will be issuing Guardia Civil traffic officers with new technology in October so that they can report traffic violations immediately to a central computing system.

After completing trials on the hand-held PRIDE (Programa de Informatizacíon de Denuncias) devices in the province of Segovia, DGT officials said that as from 2008 the same equipment will be used nationwide.

PRIDE units will allow Guardia Civil officers to report traffic offences on the spot and motorists who are fined can pay using a credit card thanks to the units’ magnetic band reader.

Officers will also have immediate access to the driver and vehicles details and records on the PRIDE unit screen, information which is currently only available by radio contact with head offices.

The units will be connected to the central computer system via a global positioning system operated by a major mobile phone company.

I hope the signal is better than we get on our mobile phones!

That is some cake

The confectionery shop San Joaquin de Bigastro in Calle Barrio nuevo has made this elaborate piece to honour San Joaquin.

Friday, August 10, 2007

My little poll

Many thanks to those who voted. You can see the results on the left.

No. 1 The pace of life is certainly much slower here than it is in the UK. Mostly that is a good thing except when you are dealing with bureaucracy! Generally people don't look as harassed as they do in the UK. Probably the climate has a lot to do with that.

No 2 Apparently the cost of living is not as cheap as it was say ten years ago. Whilst somethings are surprisingly cheap, others seem to be on par with prices in the UK. We live here on a lot less money than had in England.

Joint no. 3 We like the weather here. We love the fact that you can live outside for most of the year. For us, pottering about in the garden, lazing on a sunbed and having a dip in the pool is the perfect way of life. For others though July and August are just too hot and we understand that. It is certainly not a good time of the year to have to work outdoors.

Joint no. 3 We love the way Bigastrense sit outside their houses at night watching the world go by. It is a sign that family life is still very important here in Spain. You often see several generations of families eating out or just going for a walk together. We've never witnessed binge drinking nor anti social behavior in Bigastro. In fact we've never seen a Spaniard drunk out on the streets. On the whole we find the people very friendly and helpful.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Try again

The Ayuntamiento have issued the following Bando which prohibits fireworks in the streets except on the 15th and 16th August between 2 and 6, Avenida General Bañuls.

I know that it is only meant to be fun but let's hope that the ban works and that Calle Purisma doesn't end up looking like a war zone when the fiesta has finished.

Another night to remember

The event was the 60th birthday party for Pauline who lives on our estate. The food was excellent, the company brilliant but best of all the entertainment was first class.

Pete, who also lives on the estate, has worked as an entertainer for many years and built up a very polished, professional act.

Apart from being an accomplished singer in his own right, Pete specialises in impersonations. As anybody who has tried to do an impersonation knows, it isn't just the voice that you need to get right, the mannerisms are very important too. Pete has both the voice and the actions to carry his impressions off to perfection.

On previous occasions we have been treated to Elvis, a teddy boy and Freddy Mercury. Last night though we saw P.J Proby (complete with ripped pants) and Peters and Lee. I understand he also does a Dolly Parton which I'd bet is fabulous.

There were other highlights as well including the magnificently funny Three Degrees performance, the sharp wit of Jim Ryder who MC'd the show and Allan White's well delivered monologue about King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The young girls from the estate delighted the crowd with a dance routine to Labelle's "Lady Marmalade".

I have to say that Jim looked all too convincing as a woman in the Peter's and Lee duo! For me though the best performances were by Ron Hawes; first as Sheila Ferguson, lead singer in the Three Degrees and then as Old Shep accompanying Pete in the Presley number of the same name.

A huge thank you to all those who were involved in any way. Your efforts were very much appreciated by us all of us.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cheaper flights

It seems that the low cost airline Ryanair are negotiating to fly to and from Alicante airport. This move will hopefully bring the cost of travelling to the UK down since Ryanair are said to be the cheapest of the budget airlines.

The problem with a lot of the budget airlines though is that the true cost of flights is much more than the advertised price. Once you add surcharges and now baggage costs to the original price it almost doubles.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Fiesta continues....

SATURDAY, 11th August
17:30 Infant Fair in the Parque de la Cruz
20:00 Demonstration of horses (in front of the furniture shop MeM)
22:30 Parade ending in the Parque Huerto del Cura for the inauguration of the Barracas
23:30 Disco móvil until dawn

SUNDAY, 12th August
12:00 Brass Band and trips on the "Uncle of the Tractor" through the streets of the town.
17:00 Suckling pig (in front of the furniture shop MeM)
19:30 Infant Parade
20:30 Spectacular parade of Moors and Christians lead by the group " "Caballeros del Cid""
22:00 Popular Supper in the Calle Purisima
01:00 Variety show with the humorist Jordi LP and Disco móvil

MONDAY, 13th August
12:00 Brass Band and trips on the "Uncle of the Tractor" through the streets of the town.
12:00 Traditional Games in the Calle Purisima
13:00 Gastronomic Day in the Plaza de la Concordia.
19:30 Entrance of the bands
20:30 Parade of comparsas (groups from the town).
24:30 Performance by the Orchestra Limite and Disco móvil

TUESDAY, 14th August
12:00 Brass Band and trips on the "Uncle of the Tractor" through the streets of the town.
14:00 Giant Paella in the Plaza de la Concordia.
19:30 Floral Offering to San Joaquin and Mass de Campa6na in Plaza de la Constitución accompanied by a Rociero Choir
23:00 Concert by the Society Musical Union of Bigastro
01:00 Performance by the "Pirate Orchestra" and Disco móvil

WEDNESDAY, 15th August
12:00 Brass Band and trips on the "Uncle of the Tractor" through the streets of the town.
12:00 Mass to Honor the Virgin of Asunción
19:00 Entrance of the bands along the calles
19:30 Multicoloured parade of comparsas
01:00 Traditional Dawn announcing of the great day of the patron.
01:30 Performance by David Civera (entrance free) followed by Disco móvil in the Parque Huerto del Cura

THURSDAY, 16th August
11:00 Parade of the Town Band through the streets followed by Holy Mass.
12:00 Solemn Mass to honour San Joaquin, presided over by the Moseñor Fernando Navarro Cremades, prelate of its Sanctity and Parish priest of the Basilica de nuestra Señora de Aspe, along with the local parish priest, D. Jesús Ortu6no. In addition there will be a performance by Chorale Manuel Moya.
20:30 Solemn Procession to honor San Joaquin. Followed by a spectacular fireworks castle.
01:00 Disco- móvil

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Juvenile Fiesta Queen 2007

The 2006 Fiesta Queen

2007 and 2006 Fiesta Queens

2007 Fiesta Queen

The new 3rd age King and Queen

Last night was the very special occasion when John and Beryl were crowned King and Queen for the Fiesta San Joaquin. They both beamed with delight as they strode along the catwalk to the stage. At the moment of coronation; Beryl was presented with a sash and tiara and John with a sash and cane. Later Beryl was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

In his speech, the Mayor welcomed the British people from Villas Andrea both in Spanish and English and congratulated John and Beryl on being elected 3rd Age King and Queen.